November 15, 2009

FDA Warning Letters to Caffeinated Alcohol drink makers

From the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is taking aim at caffeinated alcoholic drinks, saying it will pull them off the market unless manufacturers can prove the beverages are safe to drink.

On Friday, the FDA sent letters to nearly 30 companies, giving them 30 days to provide evidence that their drinks don't pose health or safety risks.

The FDA hasn't approved the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages, and companies might have to show that experts generally think mixing caffeine and alcohol is safe for consumers.

Comments posted on the WSJ website ask whether this will make it illegal to serve rum and Coke, Irish coffee, or black/white Russians.

The FDA Press Announcement

November 15, 2009 in Food and Drink, Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 09, 2009

American Heart Association: Eat Less Sugar

The American Heart Association is now recommending we eat less sugar.  This is probably good news, since there's a possible sugar shortage ahead (blogged here).

From the AHA website:

Study highlights:

  • High intake of added sugars is implicated in numerous poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • Added sugars and solid fats in food, as well as alcoholic beverages are categorized as “discretionary calories” and should be eaten sparingly.
  • Most American women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day; most men, no more than 150 calories.
  • Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet. 

DALLAS, Aug. 24, 2009 — A new American Heart Association scientific statement provides specific guidance on limiting the consumption of added sugars and provides information about the relationship between excess sugar intake and metabolic abnormalities, adverse health conditions and shortfalls in essential nutrients. The statement, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, for the first time, provides the association’s recommendations on specific levels and limits on the consumption of added sugars.


September 9, 2009 in Dieting, Ingredients, nutrition policy, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2009

Can they do this? Beer from Civet (weasel-like animal) droppings

Asian Parlm civet Bevlog beer and wine label blog comes up with the oddest things.  But this one really has me wondering.  Here's the blurb:

Beer with Civet Droppings

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch. . . is made with weasel excrement. Literally. The label explains that:

This imperial Oatmeal stout is brewed with one of the world’s most expensive coffees, made from droppings of weasel-like civet cats. The fussy Southeast Asian animals only eat the best and ripest coffee berries. Enzymes in their digestive system help to break down the bean. Workers collect the bean-containing droppings for Civet or Weasel Coffee. The exceedingly rare Civet Coffee has a strong, distinctive taste and an even stronger aroma.

So here are my questions.  Does this qualify as "beer" for IRS purposes? (See post here.)  Are coffee beans culled out of Civet droppings GRAS? Who regulates this stuff? Is this one of those alcohol-caffeine drinks (blogged here) some were concerned about?

Here's what Wikipedia says about "Civet Coffee"

Kopi Luak (pronounced [ˈkopi ˈloo - uck]) or Civet coffee is coffee made from coffee berries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and other related civets. The civets eat the berries, but the beans inside pass through their system undigested.

The photo is from Wikipedia.  License info here.

September 4, 2009 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 13, 2009

Possible Sugar Shortage Ahead

From the Wall Street Journal:

Food Firms Warn of Sugar Shortage

Some of America's biggest food companies say the U.S. could "virtually run out of sugar" if the Obama administration doesn't ease import restrictions amid soaring prices for the key commodity.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, the big brands -- including Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. -- bluntly raised the prospect of a severe shortage of sugar used in chocolate bars, breakfast cereal, cookies, chewing gum and thousands of other products.

read more (at this point, you may need a subscription.  Sorry about that.)

August 13, 2009 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 10, 2009

Sugar shortage?


Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Damaged crops from India to Brazil mean the world won’t have enough sugar for a second straight year. Global demand will exceed output by as much as 5 million metric tons in the year through September 2010, leading to a record two-year shortfall, . . .

read more

August 10, 2009 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2009

Alcohol-Caffeine Drinks

This article is reminding me that I haven't had my caffeine yet today.  From the Wall Street Journal:

Buzz Kill? Critics Target Alcohol-Caffeine Drinks

State attorneys general and health-advocacy groups are urging the federal government to more closely regulate caffeinated alcoholic drinks, a small but fast-growing category popular among younger drinkers.

Proponents of tougher regulation are calling for everything from outright bans to warning labels stating that mixing caffeine and alcohol could carry health or safety risks. A primary concern of the groups is that caffeine and other stimulants may mask feelings of drunkenness, which could lead users to act recklessly, such as driving while intoxicated.

read more

August 6, 2009 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2009

Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

On January 27, 2009, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on a study conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). It tested popular processed foods and found mercury present in foods with high fructose corn syrup. The original study is available online.
To understand the gravity of this discovery, it is important to understand two things: that mercury is poison, and that high fructose corn syrup is in nearly all of our processed foods!

What is wrong with Mercury?

Among other things, the study describes mercury as a “potent brain toxin” that is known to cause brains to “develop abnormally, impairing learning abilities and reducing IQ.”
What is high fructose corn syrup?
High fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener found in many processed foods. According to the study, the average American consumes about 12 teaspoons per day!

Some of the more popular foods that were found to contain mercury included: Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars, Quaker Oatmeal to-go bars, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt, Market Pantry Grape Jelly and Coca-Cola.

Other foods containing mercury can be found on this list of 55 popular foods and beverages that contain high levels of high fructose corn syrup.

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Emily Babcock for preparing this post.

February 12, 2009 in food safety, Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2009

Yogurt Standards

Two wees ago, the FDA proposed a change to the standards of identity for yogurt. FDA Law Blog has a nice post on the proposed rules: FDA Law Blog
The proposal itself is in the Federal Register (here).

From FDA Law Blog:

FDA has issued a proposed rule that would amend the standard of identity for yogurt and revoke the regulations on standards of identity for lowfat and nonfat yogurt. Under § 401 of the FDC Act, FDA has the authority to establish a reasonable definition and standard of identity for any food to “promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.” Currently, there are separate standards of identity for yogurt, lowfat yogurt, and nonfat yogurt. Under FDA’s proposal, there would be a single standard of identity for yogurt. This standard of identity could be modified to produce lower-fat versions under 21 C.F.R. 130.10, which sets out requirements for foods named by use of a nutrient content claim (e.g., “low fat”) and a standardized term (e.g., “yogurt”).

January 30, 2009 in Food culture, Ingredients, Labeling | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 18, 2008

From FDA Law Blog: Cargill to make Stevia-derived sweetener

Cargill has evidently applied for GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status for its new sweetener, but FDA has not yet ruled on the GRAS application:

Cargill Announces Plans to Market Stevia-Derived Sweetener Without FDA’s Blessing, and CSPI Cries Foul

On December 15, Cargill issued a press release in which it announced a “broad-based national integrated marketing campaign” to promote its sweetener Truvia™ (Truvia™ is Cargill’s preparation of rebiana, or rebaudioside A, one of the sweetening components that can be extracted from Stevia rebaudiana). . .


December 18, 2008 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2008

Caffeine in . . . Soap?!

Interesting article on about the proliferation of caffeinated products, including some personal hygiene products (Bath Buzz anyone?)

. . . But recently companies began unleashing a barrage of unfamiliar products packed with extreme amounts of caffeine. The trend started with super-caffeinated energy drinks in the '90s, but more recently scientists and marketers have created caffeinated foods and even personal-hygiene products. . . .

Read more: Hey! Who Put Caffeine in my Soap? by John Cloud

October 22, 2008 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 19, 2008

Prenatal maternal diet affects asthma risk in offspring

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that a mother's use of folic acid supplements during pregnancy may contribute to development of asthma in her children. This was a mouse study that sought to test the notion that changes in the mother's diet could cause "changes in DNA methylation resulting in aberrant gene transcription" resulting in development of allergic airway disease in the child.

Here's how HealthDay describes the study:

The study, by researchers at National Jewish Health and Duke University, found that pregnant mice fed diets high in supplements containing methyl-donors (folic acid, L-methionine, choline and genistein) had babies with more severe allergic airway disease than mice born to mothers that consumed diets low in methyl-containing foods.

The mice born to mothers fed high methyl-donor diets had greater asthma severity, more airway hyperactivity, more allergic inflammation in the airways, higher levels of IgE in their blood, and their immune system T-cells were more likely to be the type associated with allergy. Male offspring also transmitted a higher predisposition to allergy airway disease to their pups.

The current issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation also includes an editorial, Prenatal maternal diet affects asthma risk in offspring, by Rachel L. Miller:

. . .One cannot ignore the observation that the increase in asthma prevalence over recent decades approximately coincides with worldwide campaigns that recommend periconceptional dietary folate supplementation. From a public health perspective, the adverse nonrespiratory health consequences of insufficient prenatal folate consumption are legitimate concerns. But an even broader public health issue has surfaced. If confirmed, prenatal exposures may influence the development of asthma not only for our children, but for their children as well.

Here is the study: In utero supplementation with methyl donors enhances allergic airway disease in mice, by John W. Hollingsworth, Shuichiro Maruoka, Kathy Boon, Stavros Garantziotis, Zhuowei Li, John Tomfohr, Nathaniel Bailey, Erin N. Potts, Gregory Whitehead, David M. Brass and David A. Schwartz.

In 1996, the FDA required folate fortification of many flours and flour products in order to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects:

In keeping with the recommendations of PHS and the FDA Food Advisory Committee called to study these issues, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring that folic acid be added to specific flour, breads and other grains. These foods were chosen for fortification with folate because they are staple products for most of the U.S. population, and because they have a long history of being successful vehicles for improving nutrition to reduce the risk of classic nutrient deficiency diseases.

These fortified foods include most enriched breads, flours, corn meals, rice, noodles, macaroni and other grain products.

[For what it's worth, I refused to take folic acid supplements, but I made sure I got the full RDA by eating fortified cereal while I was pregnant.  My kids both had childhood asthma (but then, I have asthma too).]  DMB

September 19, 2008 in Children, Ingredients, nutrition policy, Scientific studies, supplements | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 18, 2008

What's so bad about high fructose corn syrup?

Article on the TIME/CNN website:

Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Really Good for You? , by Lisa McLaughlin

Shopping last week in her local New York City grocery store, Elise Mackin, 32, filled her cart with items she knows to be good for her family — whole grains, fruits and veggies — and shied away from products that contained less wholesome ingredients. "Trans fats are out," she said, "and anything with high-fructose corn syrup."

The problem is that most people can't quite say why they believe HFCS is bad for them.  Is it worse than table sugar (which has similar proportions of fructose and glucose)?  The article highlights the uncertainty about HFCS and includes links to recent industry ads promoting its safety.

September 18, 2008 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2008

GRAS applications and No Questions letters

FDA Law Blog (published by Hyman, Phelps, and McNamara) has an interesting post on GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) applications for food ingredients and uses for food ingredients:

FDA GRAS Response Letter Offers No Safe Harbor from FDAAA § 912

In previous postings (here and here), we have observed that § 912 of the 2007 FDA Amendments Act (“FDAAA”), which added the new § 301(ll) prohibition to the FDC Act, could represent a fundamental shift in the dividing line between foods and drugs, and has the potential to deter innovation in the research and development of new food ingredients.  That potential is slowly starting to be realized.  To understand why, a brief recap of the Generally Recognized as Safe (“GRAS”) concept is necessary.


July 21, 2008 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 30, 2008

CSPI: high fructose corn syrup not "natural"

Corn_2  The American Medical Association recently announced its conclusion that “high fructose corn syrup does not contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.”   Not surprisingly, the Corn Refiners Association applauded this finding:

“This science-based decision by the nation’s leading medical body reaffirms that no single food or ingredient is the sole cause of obesity. Rather, too many calories and too little exercise is a primary cause,” said Audrae Erickson, president, Corn Refiners Association.

New research continues to confirm that high fructose corn syrup is no different from other sweeteners, according to Erickson. HFCS, like table sugar and honey, is natural. It is made from corn, a natural grain product.

As the Center for Science in the Public Interest is quick to point out however, there is not much natural about HFCS:

The Corn Refiners Association’s slick new advertising is deceptive in stating that high-fructose corn syrup “has the same natural sweeteners as table sugar.” HFCS consists almost entirely of glucose and fructose, but not a single molecule of sucrose. Sugar is 100 percent sucrose. It is true that adding a water molecule to sucrose and splitting it in half yields one molecule each of glucose and fructose—but that is not the same as saying that HFCS and sugar contain the same sweeteners.

It is also deceptive to imply that HFCS is natural. HFCS starts out as cornstarch, which is chemically or enzymatically degraded to glucose (and some short polymers of glucose). Another enzyme is then used to convert varying fractions of glucose into fructose. High fructose corn syrup just doesn’t exist in nature. . . .

More on the process from the Corn Refiners (they should know).

High fructose corn sweeteners begin with enzymes which isomerize dextrose to produce a 42 percent fructose syrup. By passing 42-HFCS through a column which retains fructose, refiners draw off 90 percent HFCS and blend it with 42-HFCS to make a third syrup, 55-HFCS. Further processing produces crystalline fructose.

All the syrups share advantages--stability, high osmotic pressure, or crystallization control, for example--but each offers special qualities to food manufacturers and consumers. 42-HFCS is popular in canned fruits, condiments and other processed foods which need mild sweetness that won't mask natural flavors. Sweeter 55-HFCS has earned a commanding role in soft drinks, ice cream and frozen desserts. Supersweet 90-HFCS is valued in natural and "light" foods, where very little is needed to provide sweetness. Crystalline fructose's capacity to produce greater sweetness in combination with sugar makes it useful in presweetened cereals, instant beverages and other dry mix products.

June 30, 2008 in Ingredients, Labeling | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 07, 2008

Comment period on Labeling of Ultrafiltered Milk in Cheeses closes February 11, 2008

Comment period on labeling of ultrafiltered milk in cheese products ends next week.

Background (from the December 11, 2007 Federal Register Docket announcement--Cheeses and Related Cheese Products; Proposal to Permit the Use of Ultrafiltered Milk; Reopening of the Comment Period):

   In 2005, in response to two citizen petitions, one submitted by the American Dairy Products Institute and another submitted jointly by the National Cheese Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Inc., and the National Food Processors Association, the FDA issued a proposed rule allowing the use of "ultrafiltered milk" in cheeses and cheese products.

The FDA approved the use of ultrafiltered milk, but also tentatively concluded that fluid UF milk is significantly different in its composition from the starting material "milk'' and, therefore, proposed that fluid UF milk must be declared as "ultrafiltered milk'' in the ingredient statement of the finished cheese.

Some of the comments received on the proposed rules objected to the labeling requirement on the grounds that it would be costly and impracticable, and also that it would be misleading to consumers.

So now FDA is seeking comments only on those two issues:

FDA is seeking public comment only with respect to two of their reasons that:

(1) Due to economic and logistical burdens, it would be impracticable for cheese manufacturers to comply with the labeling requirement; and

(2) the proposed provision to declare fluid UF milk as "ultrafiltered milk'' would be misleading to consumers in that consumers incorrectly believe that cheeses that declare "ultrafiltered milk'' as an ingredient are different from those cheeses that declare "milk'' as an ingredient or "milk and ultrafiltered milk'' as ingredients.

From Food and Water Watch (which wants the ultrafiltered milk to be labeled):

The problem is, ultrafiltered milk isn't the same as milk. Ultrafiltered milk has been filtered to remove things like lactose, minerals, and vitamins.  It is cheaper than fluid milk or powdered milk and that's why the food processing industry wants to use it.  They just don't want you to know about it.


Here's the part about how to submit comments:

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. 2000P-
0586, by any of the following methods:

Electronic Submissions
Federal eRulemaking Portal:

Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the Agency Web site:
Written Submissions
Submit written submissions in the following ways:

FAX: 301-827-6870.

Mail/Hand delivery/Courier [For paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions]: Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

To ensure more timely processing of comments, FDA is no longer accepting comments submitted to the agency by e-mail. FDA encourages you to continue to submit electronic comments by using the Federal eRulemaking Portal or the agency Web site, as described previously, in the ADDRESSES portion of this document under Electronic Submissions.

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and Docket No(s). and Regulatory Information Number (RIN) (if a RIN number has been assigned) for this rulemaking. All comments received may be posted without change to,
including any personal information provided. For additional information on submitting comments, see the "Comments'' heading of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

February 7, 2008 in Ingredients, Labeling | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 25, 2008

Baby Formula Additives -- Cornucopia study says not like breast milk

The Cornucopia Institute has just released a report on Omega-3 fatty acid additives in infant formula.  A brief summary and an interview with Cornucopia co-founder, Mark Kastel, were aired on NPR's Marketplace today.  The full story is available on the Cornucopia website:

Marketing Gimmick” Linked to Serious Infant Illnesses

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA: A report released today by The Cornucopia Institute presents research indicating that new additives placed in infant formula are seriously endangering the health of some formula-fed newborns and toddlers.

The report, Replacing Mother—Imitating Human Breast Milk in the Laboratory, details research questioning the alleged benefits of adding “novel” omega-3 fatty acids, produced in laboratories and extracted from algae and fungus, into infant formulas. The additives raised health and safety red flags during preapproval testing while aggressive marketing campaigns by some infant formula manufacturers appear to have encouraged new mothers to give up nursing for the questionable infant products.


January 25, 2008 in Children, Ingredients, Organics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 20, 2007

FDA to hold public hearing on salt and sodium

From an FDA/CFSAN news release:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing a public hearing concerning FDA's policies regarding salt (sodium chloride) and sodium in food. FDA also is announcing the availability for comment of a citizen petition, submitted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), requesting that FDA make changes to the regulatory status of salt, require limits on salt in processed foods, and require health messages related to salt and sodium. The purpose of the hearing is for FDA to share its current framework of policies regarding salt and sodium and to solicit information and comments from interested persons on this current framework and on potential future approaches, including approaches described in the citizen petition.

The public meeting takes place November 29, 2007.  For more information and to register online go to the FDA website announcement.

To read the Center for Science in the Public Interest position on salt and to read the petition to the FDA, go to the CSPI website.   

October 20, 2007 in Ingredients, Labeling, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 03, 2007

Stevia dispute resolved

All it took was a change in the label. Last month the FDA raised concerns about Stevia in instant iced-tea (blogged here).  Stevia can be sold as a dietary supplement, but it has not been approved as a food additive.  Hain Celestial group has resolved the issue by changing the label.  From

In a letter to the FDA last week, Hain wrote that "after working closely with the FDA," it had agreed to change the products' labels to make the words "Herbal Supplement" more prominent and remove the words "iced tea mix," among other alterations.

A Hain spokeswoman said the changes had satisfied the FDA's concerns.

October 3, 2007 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2007

What is a Food? Not Stevia

From, FDA tells Melville tea maker to stop using stevia

Federal regulators have warned Melville-based food company Hain Celestial Group Inc. to stop selling certain tea flavors because they contain "an unsafe food additive."

The Food and Drug Administration told the company to stop marketing products containing stevia, an organic sweetener that research has connected to "concerns about control of blood sugar, and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems."

Stevia is approved as a dietary supplement but not as a food additive.

September 28, 2007 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Trans-Fat Holdouts in Supermarkets

From a Center for Science in the Public Interest news release:

WASHINGTON—Though trans fat-labeling rules spurred many companies to remove most of the partially hydrogenated oil from most of their processed foods, hundreds of foods still contain the discredited, heart-attack-inducing ingredient, according to a limited supermarket survey conducted by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). At least 150 varieties of pot pies, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, pastries, cookies and convenience foods have a whole day’s worth of trans fat, according to the group, which renewed its call for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on a proposal to phase out partially hydrogenated oil altogether.


June 12, 2007 in Ingredients | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack